Categories
idealism politics

Ayn Rand Institute on the Dole

Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand

Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum, or Ayn Rand, as you may or may not know, is an atheist responsible for extolling her invented philosophy called “objectivism”, as detailed in her doorstopper work of fiction called Atlas Shrugged. Her nonfiction works included titles such as “The Virtue of Selfishness” and “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal”. While objectivism never worked as a serious branch of philosophy, her philosophy of “what’s good for ‘me’ is good for mankind” resonated with those invested in capitalism. In recent decades many in American government saw it as a way of promoting themselves to say that they had read Ayn Rand. By far the most notable American politician who claims to have read any of her works is American congressman Paul Ryan, who claims it formed the basis of his entire political career, according to a speech he made to the Atlas Institute in 2005, the 100th anniversary of Ayn’s birth. Senator Rand Paul, contrary to rumors, wasn’t named after Ayn’s pen surname (his full name is actually Randal Paul, with one “l”), but is also another big fan of the late Ms. Rand since his teen years. Both elected officials extoll “free markets” and decry “socialism” in all of its forms, in the spirit of Ayn Rand. Another prominent supporter of Ayn Rand was Alan Greenspan, who chaired the Federal reserve between 1987 and 2006. None of these people have any significant background in philosophy.

Ayn was in the twilight years of her life ironically making use of medicare and social security after suffering from medical problems related to her smoking habit. She died in 1982 at age 77.

A week ago, Reuters reported that the Ayn Rand Institute was among those who applied for the American government’s Paycheck Protection Program, which under the current pandemic, gives it access to up to 1 million dollars of government money. It is indeed ironic that an institute dedicated to “ending the welfare state” would find it within their philosophy to actually embrace the welfare state as they do here. Oh, and they embrace this wholeheartedly, making it a “matter of moral principle”. The argument is roughly: because we pay taxes, we therefore must all apply for any handouts we can get our hands on as a form of restitution for the theft of taxation. On the other hand, those who support the welfare state have no right to claim such access to handouts, since they are in support of theft (taxation), and therefore lack any moral justification to be so compensated. This means that, according to the website, the fault lies in the contradictions of the welfare state, and not in the Ayn Rand institute, who merely claim what was taken from them.

It is very convenient that members of the Ayn Rand Institute do not feel the need for living up to their own convictions. The institute is not out to make a profit; indeed it is a right-wing think tank that receives private donations, and as such it is registered in Irvine, California as a nonprofit organization (under tax code 501(c)(3)), thus avoiding taxation altogether. It has no real moral claim to restitution of any such government thievery, since nothing was ever taken from them. Nope. They’re just sponging off the government.

Categories
Cycling daily life

My first look at the Caledon Trail: a gallery

Mile zero ot the Caledon Trail is a good ways away from where I live, and not all of it is highway driving, since it is far away from the 401, the 403, the 407, and any of the “400 series” expressways. Most of the drive was through Winston Churchhill Boulevard, which gradually narrows from 6 lanes to 2 lanes as you approach Terra Cotta, where the Mile Zero marker is located. You then need to enter a dirt road with an initial sharp incline called Brick Lane and travel it to the end to see the trail.

The distance from home to the trail is further away (41 km) than the trail itself, so I drove. Since I left around 11 AM or so, it was already getting hot, and so I didn’t carry the bike in the van. Today was about seeing how easy or difficult it was to get to the Mile Zero marker, and then looking around. There were no issues, except right around Mile Zero, King St. breaks up Winston Churchhill into two sections, and you had to find the northern section to get to Brick Lane. Not that hard with a map, which I had.

The small bit of looking around I did was extremely helpful in planning my ride, when I decide to embark. It will likely be useful to divide the route into 3 sections of about 10 km each, which makes a ballpark cycling distance twice that, due to the return journey. The trail goes across main streets and towns, so it is possible to stop where I last turned back the previous day and do a new journey for another 10 or so kilometers.

More of my thoughts are below. To see the illustrations in “gallery mode”, click on a graphic, and it will behave as a slideshow. However, you lose the captions.

Categories
album covers crappy album covers

Crappy Album Covers #335: Don’t let go the coattails

Cody Matherson "Can I Borrow a Feelin'?"Anyone who has read this blog from as far back as 10 years ago may have recalled a fella named Cody Matherson, who made an album called “Can I Borrow a Feelin’?” If you did see it, I guess it was hard to unsee. And my apologies for re-traumatizing you with this illustration. But I am bringing this up for a reason, since I have noticed that a few years later, as Cody had gotten older, his appearance naturally changed and now he has, uh, matured both musically and physically, with his more recent offering. All the while, his fame appears to have spread far and wide.

Cody MathersonI discovered this album while picking through some fresh Crappy Album Covers for future blogs. And look! A sequel! “Can I Borrow Another Feelin’?” rides on the tidal wave of success of his previous album, and takes things “that one step too far”. Also, Cody doesn’t seem to look that much worse for wear, don’t you think?

Stories abound about Cody’s past, on the internet. But many of them are well-written, but obviously tall tales, such as his place of birth in Pflugerville, Texas in 1958, followed  by a number of other plausible details, then saying that he was written up in Rolling Stone magazine as a country-rock legend with musical prowess comparable to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elvis and Barry Manilow. That, and famous quotes purportedly about Cody from Bob Dylan. This is all nice, but there is not much proof of his actual music existing. The only evidence of Cody’s musicianship that appear to be left to 21st century civilization are these two album covers, which turn up all over the place. The Joyce album , referred to by some as the Mona Lisa of crappy album covers, is real. I have heard a snippet of her brand of gospel music. I have also heard music from many other CAC makers, some good, some not so much. But as Donald Rumsfeld liked to say about their ability to turn up evidence of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear arms cache, “evidence of absence is not absence of evidence.” Just because we can’t find any music from Cody Matherson, doesn’t mean that it’s not out there. We can say that for the Rolling Stone article, too.

KirkVanHouten Can I Borrow a FeelingThis franchise has apparently made it into the canon of popular culture. So much so, that a Simpson’s episode was devoted to a situation where Homer’s friend, Kirk Van Houten, was trying to get his former wife back by devoting a recording of songs like these and launching his career. There was merchandise such as cassette recordings you could have bought from the Simpson’s website for a while. Now, these are trading on websites such as E-Bay. You can now even get Kirk Van Houten T-shirts and coffee mugs, and patches for your jean jacket.

the-decline-can-i-borrow-a-feelingAs recently as 2014, Australian skate punk group The Decline announced a tour in promotion of an EP they recorded entitled “Can I Borrow a Feeling?”, obviously riding on the coattails of Cody Matheson and Kirk Van Houten, neither of whom were available for comment.

Categories
Celebrity factoids politics

Two bullet point pieces on Trump

Sorry, but there will be a lack of attribution. This is not my own, but is lightly edited:

1. Trump description
  • The “billionaire” who hides his tax returns.
  • The “genius” who hides his college grades.
  • The “businessman” who bankrupted 3 casinos and lost over $1B in 10 years.
  • The “playboy” who pays for sex.
  • The “Christian” who doesn’t go to church.
  • The “philanthropist” who defrauds charity.
  • The “patriot” who dodged the draft. And attacks dead Veterans and their widows.
  • The “innocent man” who refuses to testify.
2. Trump Dictionary
  • Many People have told me = Voices in my head and fictional people have said to me
  • A lot of people don’t know = I just learned something most people already knew
  • Nobody knew = Everyone knew except me
  • Believe me = I just lied
  • In Fact = I’m about to lie
  • He’s a great guy = He is either a foreign dictator or a Klansman
  • MAGA = Making my pockets fatter off the American tax payers
  • Huge = Unimportant to most people except Trump
  • Loser = someone who makes me feel inferior due to their talent or accomplishments, often a government employee guilty of doing their job
  • Policy Briefing = Watching Fox and Friends
  • Liar = Someone telling the truth about me
  • Fake News = News which Trump finds inconvenient
  • Deep state = Gov’t people with experience whom I disagree with
Categories
Cycling Miscellaneous

The North End of the Etobicoke Trail

I can now say that I have travelled nearly the whole trail in halves: The southern half beginning at Markland Wood Golf Course to Turner Fenton; and the northern half starting from Turner Fenton and going to the 410 and Kennedy in Caledon.

Unlike last week’s trek, I had my cycling shoes this time. I don’t bring them to every outing, since I sometimes lose balance in them and fall. This happens a lot less since I loosened the clips, but I I’d fall off the bike about 3 weeks ago, not being able to plant both feet on the ground as I was stopping. I give myself a break and use sneakers for some outings, but for this journey I was in my cleats, and had no issues.

The middle part of the journey was the worst, going through downtown Brampton in the Queen/Main area. On my first attempt at this trail, I tended to get lost around this area, and even ended up traveling in circles. I then attempted to take the opposite direction on the trail, and ended up travelling in a different circle from the one before. Instead of encountering the same park bench, I was passing by Cardinal Leger Secondary School more than once. I called it a day, and before I drove home, I went to a drug store to find a copy of a map of Brampton. When I got home, I traced the north end of the trail through Brampton.

I know in this age of internet and cell phones, I could have used my 4G access, but actually I had used up my bandwidth, and my provider cut off the internet at 500MB instead of allowing it to go into overage. I have had this same service for a few years, and I couldn’t remember if I asked Koodoo to set it up that way, but I kept it like that and took it as a blessing in disguise, thinking that it won’t hurt to rely on a paper map.

So, I tried again the next day. This time, with the map’s help, I made it through the entire trail and crossed Mayfield Road in under 2 hours. The entire return trip was done in about 3 hours and 30 minutes, the return journey being easier.

The downtown Brampton piece of the journey involved discovering a forested area, with a sharp downhill and uphill, with a turn in between. The presence of pedestrians using the trail made me decide that I had to walk the bike.

The nicest parts of the journey were nearest to Mayfield Road. While parts of the road were packed gravel, it passed through some of the nicest forested areas I had seen in Peel Region outside of Erindale Park. I made two brief stops to stretch, drink water, and reapply suntan lotion.

Categories
Popular Culture Popular Music Rock and Roll

Bob Dylan’s only #1 Billboard hit, and Armageddon

In my series on Crappy Album Covers, Bob Dylan has appeared at least twice. I had also written about his singing skills or lack thereof at least once before. Needless to say, I have established my not-very-high opinion of Dylan’s singing and album covers on this blog.

However, I had always complimented him on his songwriting and poetry skill. His skill was good enough to win him the Nobel Prize for literature in 2017. However, the songs Dylan wrote were always best sung by other people.

Among the most frequent cover artists were Joan Baez; Judy Collins; The Band; The Byrds; Glen Campbell; Johnny Cash; Cher; Eric Clapton; Joe Cocker; Fairport Convention; Bryan Ferry; Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs; The Grateful Dead; George Harrisson; Jimi Hendrix; The Hollies; Peter, Paul and Mary; Tom Petty (with and without The Heartbreakers); Elvis Presley; Pete Seeger; Yes; Steve Howe; and Neil Young.

More modern artists cover him less frequently. They include: XTC; The White Stripes; The Red Hot Chili Peppers; Sinead O’Connor; My Morning Jacket; Jason Mraz; Ministry; Maroon 5; Dave Matthews Band; Diana Krall; Alicia Keys; Kesha; Norah Jones; Indigo Girls; Robyn Hitchcock (with and without The Egyptians); Green Day; Dream Syndicate; Miley Cyrus; Nick Cave and The Badseeds; and The Black Crowes.

And what I didn’t know until earlier today, is that at age 79, Dylan’s hit song, “Murder Most Foul”, has reached #1 on the Billboard chart for “US Digital Song Sales”, which is the first time he had a #1 hit singing in his own voice on any of the Billboard charts. This song will be part of his up-coming album “Rough and Rowdy Ways”, to be released at the end of next week.

The 17-minute hit beats Don Maclean’s “American Pie” by 7 minutes, and The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” by 10 minutes.

“Murder Most Foul” is a montage of artist titles, singer names, and cultural references that keep going back to the Kennedy assassination. At first listen, it is difficult to understand why all of the name-dropping and song title mentions are there. It feels kind of chaotic, and you feel like there is no structure. It requires another listen. And when you listen again, try not to make sense of anything. Then the song works perfectly, in that it begins to make its own sense. It objectively refers to Kennedy, and a multitude of artists and songs contemporary to the early sixties, with the odd mention of artists from later and earlier decades. Like a painting, you can’t examine the painting by examining each brushstroke. You need to listen to this song by allowing your mind to “step back” so to speak, and admire the song as a whole piece as you would a painting.

To say it is a sad song is an understatement. It seems more like a funeral march. It is a eulogy to a dying culture, and the end of an era. It reveals to us all what we already know: it’s not the sixties anymore. American culture is wounded, and the prospects appear grim.

Categories
Cycling

Cycling the Etobicoke Trail

The Etobicoke Creek Trail east of Dixie and Midway.

The original idea was to take the Etobicoke Trail from Glenforest Secondary School to Turner Fenton Secondary School. It didn’t quite turn out that way, since when I attempted the trail two days ago, I only made it as far as the 401, where the trail going underneath the 401 was under repairs until November, and was blocked by a fence. A fellow rider passing by led me to a knocked-down section of the fence barrier, leading to a part of the trail which was muddy, and possibly not the kind of trail for my bike, which had smooth tires. But I followed him nevertheless, and made it back to the paved trail on the other side. That side quickly led to west end of the Pearson Airport property, at the end of the runways. My temporary companion had disappeared by then, and I was on the part of the trail that ended up going alongside the much written about Convair Drive. On the other side of the fence of Convair was another paved road, likely South Service Road.

The south part of the Etobicoke Creek Trail, showing my many detours along Derry, Tomken, Convair, Renforth, Eglinton and Matheson, the latter to avoid the roadblock of the part of the trail running underneath the 401 on the return trip.

Being at the airport answered a small question in the back of my mind. I had seen South Service Road on the maps. Why was it called “South” when it was clearly running on the north side of the 401? Now that I see that it is on the airport side of the fence, I see it means that it runs on the south side of the airport.

Trail sign at Columbus and Derry roads. I hung a left instead of following the arrows.

I didn’t reach Turner Fenton, having taken the trail at Derry Road to Tomken. I almost ended up there, but didn’t travel under the 410/407 basket weave as I had hoped. Turning back, I retraced my steps and went back home via Convair Drive, exiting the trail. From there, I would take a sidewalk route going south on Renforth down to Eglinton. There was a very nice trail there, which made it possible to get back to Matheson Boulevard as I had intended, and re-enter the Etobicoke Trail via Sismet Road.

Weird structure observed at Pearson Airport, seen from Convair Drive.

My cycling odometer seemed to click over 78 km or so with the return trip, but a tracing of my route at walkandrollpeel.ca shows about half that (actually around 38 km, see illustration above), which when calculating average speed, makes more sense.

Categories
news clips

Self-defeating behaviour during the Covid-19 pandemic

A protestor with no understanding of communism, thinks that it is its opposite, and winds up supporting communism by being against that which separates us from being communal.
  • According to a Google search, a Madison media organ will say that a protest against social distancing back on April 25th will be reported by TV stations if their channels are a multiple of 9. Channels 9, 18, and 27 in Madison have reported that the protests where people had been refused a permit to hold the rally in the first place, and violated social distancing orders have defeated their own object by inadvertently shutting down businesses that would normally be open.
  • There has been a spike in serious illnesses and deaths from people ingesting household cleaners, following a suggestion made by Dr. Donald Trump about a week ago. Emergency hotlines from all over the country are receiving calls asking about ingesting household disinfectants.
  • For their Covid-19 medical stats, some countries are counting as “no longer contagious”, dead people.
  • Among the protestors in Michigan, was a woman who told a reporter that there was nowhere where she could get her hair colored. Another told a reporter that it was now difficult to obtain lawn fertilizer or grass seed, body piercings or tattoo services.
  • Florida governor Ron DeSantis has classified live professional wrestling as an essential service.
  • Missouri, a state which begain the re-opening process on May 3, is suing China for economic losses and suffering.
  • Donald Trump, after bragging about brokering a deal with OPEC, saw the oil prices in the United States become negative (-38 dollars a barrel) by April 20. Oil producers were paying buyers to take oil they couldn’t store.
  • Arkansas, whose state had not issued stay-at-home orders except for schools, has now denied visas to Chinese students who wish to study the sciences.
  • Maybe lawyer and former drug company lobbyist Alex Azar, the head of the U. S. Health and Human Services Department, could have done better than to pick Brian Harrisson, a labradoodle breeder, as head of the Coronavirus Task Force (a position later replaced by Vice President Mike Pence, whose background was as a lawyer and former Congressman). Remember to keep away people with science backgrounds at all times.
  • Florida corrections ordered inmates to manufacture face masks without wearing facemasks themselves, or any other protection, risking contamination to the facemasks they were making for the wardens and guards in the correctional facility.

Categories
crappy album covers

Crappy Album Covers 334: Classic Crock Revisited

Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919-1991) had a rare million seller with the folk song “16 Tons”. It is itself a 1955 cover version of a song written by Merle Travis (1917-1983) and released in 1947.

Not only is it Tennessee Errnie Ford’s signature tune, Ford sung it so definitively, that it is the only singer one readily identifies with the song. By today, there are easily over 100 cover versions of this song, done by artists as diverse as Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, The Dandy Warhols, and Rage Against The Machine.

A year later, Gene Vincent had a smash hit that caused great controversy. And after some kind of a public inquiry, it was concluded that no one could understand the lyrics. There was no dispute that it was a fun tune, and was listed as the 103rd of the 500 top songs of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2004.

Rumor has it that “Shredding for Satan” was an album released in 1957 (same year as Be-Bop-A-Lula). If that is true it seemed to pass without all of the bothersome controversy that was brought to Gene Vincent.

If Yvette Oldemeyer existed at all, it was as a model posing with an electric guitar and a cute yellow amplifier on the cover of a 1957 edition of Popular Electronics, showing her preference for “throbbing vibrato”.

Categories
Psychology

The Legacy of Bonnie Burstow (1945-2020)

Bonnie Burstow

Dr. Bonnie Burstow (Ph. D.) was a professor of education at OISE at the Unviersity of Toronto, who recently died of kidney failure at 75 as of 4 January, 2020.

I have been at OISE a few times, but I have never met Dr. Burstow, but her radical feminist approach to anti-psychistry as part of a patriarchical system I am sure helped many, but I wonder if feminist issues were the entire problem with psychiatry. I have always questioned its very scientific basis, a point made early on by the late Thomas Szasz (1920-2012). The only problem with Szasz was that he founded CCHR, which is aligned with the Church of Scientology. It had been the reason I lost interest in the anti-psychiatry movement over the past 30 or so years. Both sides seemed to be locked in a power struggle over who controls an individual’s mind, and both sides are politically tainted in the most unhelpful of ways.

Thomas Szasz

Szasz’s main criticisms, the most basic of which is that “mental illness” occurs in “the mind”, is a myth because “the mind” is an abstraction. He has now been upstaged by findings in “biological psychiatry”, and many are now coining the phrase “psychiatric illness”, which personally I find unhelpful in that “psychiatric” sounds like just another abstraction (maybe a more precise one?). A psychiatric illness diagnosis is still a death sentence to most people’s careers (unless it is being a standup comic or something), making it difficult to understand on what planet is what psychiatrists do considered “helpful” when it involves incarceration?

Szasz wrote a journal article (The Psychiatrist) a year before his death in 2011, which criticized the professional and legal support for modern psychiatry as raising the idea of mental illess from the level of a “myth” to the level of a “lying fact”. In response, Dr. Edward Shorter (Ph. D.) wrote in the same journal that there have been many advances along with the emergence of “biological psychiatry” which has made much of psychiatry more rigorous and scientific, although he admits that the DSM is a largely politicized document, and agrees with Szasz there.

Edward Shorter

Burstow also attacked the scientific basis of psychiatry. She herself did not have any counselling credentials academically, but acted as counsellor and had maintained that psychiatry is a patriarchal structure. I am of the thinking that the “patriarchal” structure is probably due to the lack of science, and that if you addressed the lack of science then the rest of the injustices would be resolved by and large by default. So, unless you are among those that support the notion of “feminist science” and “patriarchal science”, I am not sure what basis in reality this has. Even then, the idea that there are multiple “sciences” in the same field which depend on the views of the scientist is absurd on the face of it. The entire point of science is that the findings of an investigation should not depend on the scientist. That’s why we require reproducibility in scientific investigations. I have read Burstow, but not enough of her to know for sure if that was her take on science generally. From what I did read, I saw nothing I could construe as being part of this philosophy.

It is heartening to hear that psychiatry has come around to insisting on an evidence-based, biological approach. I also like the humanistic ideal of “freedom from labels” that appeal to those in the anti-psychiatry movement, of which Burstow was vocal. The problem is, you can’t have a science (or anything else of intellectual import) without labels. Whatever the “thing” is I need to talk about, needs to have a name, otherwise, the reader will be given a verbal diarrhea of mumbo-jumbo, making discussion difficult. So, in reality, labelling humans is difficult, but if we need to talk about someone who thinks the world is out to get them, it clarifies discussion if we give the thought obsession a name, and are nuanced enough in our discussion that we are labelling what humans do and not labelling humans themselves.

Categories
babbling factoids

NSFW: Funny airport IATA codes

IATA LogoAll capitalized three-letter “words” are actually airport codes. You may hover your mouse over these codes to reveal the specific airport and the part of the world they originate.

THE IATA (International AIR Transport Association) HAS some, shall we SAY, some interesting airport codes. I MAY go to HEL for writing THS, THO. LET‘s hope NOT.

I am hoping you will find this article FUN, make you yell OMG. Some names will make you go MAD, or GAG, or cry EEK as you DIE laughing until you either PEE or POO your pants. The kind of poo that comes from your BUM.

Doha IATA Code
Clicking on the image takes you back to the originating website.

Let’s just make sure you never arrive DOA. BUT whether you yell YAY or BOO; or BAH! HUM BUG,you will probably exclaim DOH! at each new airport code PUN.

Most PPL CAN LOL at some FAT SOB as they need to take up two seats on the plane. I could have said COW, but that JOK will PIS people.

Maybe your MOM told her shrink that your DAD is GAY or a DUD in bed when they try to DOO it.

But enough WIT talk ABT SEX. Too many PNS GAGs.

Flight #666 is going straight to HEL, although it is unclear if the tag is attached to a handbasket.

You might have a BUS to catch. Stop at the ATM. RUN home, have a piece of PIE, along with a BAG of LOX. Or maybe just have a BUN and PET your CAT or DOG. Don’t forget to feed them a FIG. Call up your SIS or BRO on the FON. Or maybe invite your best BUD over and settle that IOU by sharing a few pints of ALE. Better not be LAX, as HEE might be carrying a SODOFF.

IATA Airport codes mostly from here. Funny airport codes mostly from here. Also here. Several others were Google’d. Please take care during the COVID-19 pandemic, and seek opportunities to laugh.

Categories
politics

Why the Democratic race is a joke

The American people face the most serious time in their history. We are observing politicians submitting to a ruler who thinks he “is” the people. Not since the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings has such a mentality become the ideology of the day. To oppose this nonsense, you would think that the Democrats would put their differences aside and select a politician more committed to the rule of law than by fiat, and the contenders throw their support behind him or her.

What we are getting instead is the same style of nomination process that worked for Donald Trump, with the same thinking in mind: If Bernie Sanders is thought of as such a loony toon (I think he is fine but this is the wrong time for him), why don’t the others forget their ambitions and unite against him? Once again, like the Coronation of Trump, this is appearing to be a coronation of Sanders, which all but hands Trump his second term, and exacerbates any divisions in the country.

The reason it hands the victory to Trump, is because Sanders exactly fits the stereotype of the Democrats that Trump wants to attack. Trump and those in his party stereotype the Democrats as “socialists” and “extremists”, and so on. While none of that has been remotely true for over 50 years, and the Dems have been just as guilty of abandoning the working class over that time (half the reason Trump appealed to those same people in the Rust Belt), they open themselves to the worst attacks, nigtmare scenarios and conspiracy theories that the Republicans can throw at them.

Overall, I actually hope for a Sanders win, with control of the house and senate turned over to the Democrats. I just think that the dems are better off with a more moderate foil to Trump. But this lack of united front seems to be more helpful to Trump, since they thrive on division, and the choice of dems to divide themselves just makes the Republican’s job easier.

Categories
album covers crappy album covers

Crappy Album Covers #333 — Why it doesn’t suck: Black History Month

In Canada, due to the activism of former Member of Parliament for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Jean Augustine, we celebrate Black History Month during the month of February, and I thought it would be worthwhile to show some landmark musical contributions by black people that have caught my attention.

The history of black people contributing to music has been well-documented, and in the 1950’s, it was acknowledged to be a “race barrier” for black people to break into the music charts. What was at the time called “race music” — the music of people like Fats Domino and Chuck Berry, was music often panned by radio stations, while cover versions of the same songs by the likes of Elvis Presley and Pat Boone were played endlessly.

Calypso (album) - Wikipedia

Harry Belafonte was among the first to break the race barrier in 1955 with his album Calypso. The second album by him to reach #1 on Billboard, it contains signature tunes such as Day-o, Jamaica Farewell, and Man Smart, Woman Smarter.

Belafonte is still around, he is 92 years old. Before his ilve performances of Day-o, he would explain a particular lyric in it, which was “Come Mr. Tally Man, tally me banana”. The song was about dock workers loading heavy bunches of bananas on to a boat for export over night, waiting as dawn breaks for the tally man to count their bunches of bananas so they can get paid and go home.

What makes this particular LP special is that it was the first record album in history to sell over a million records. Before that, million sellers were a term attributed to singles, such as Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, or Tennessee Ernie Ford’s Sixteen Tons. But this was the first time a whole album was acknowledged as a million seller. Calypso also stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 for 99 weeks — almost two years.

Rosaparks.jpg
Rosa Parks in 1955, with Rev. King standing behind her.

Belafonte was very much involved with the political activism of Rev. Martin Luther King, and as a result was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. He paid for Reverend King’s bail to get him out of Birmingham Prison in Alabama, and raised bail money to get other unjustly imprisoned black people out of prison on the eve of the Birmingham protests. The protests were against Apartheid-style racial segregation, common in the southern states until the early 1960s, and Birmingham was seen as the focal point of segregation during that time. The person who started this was a local seamstress who boarded a municipal bus in Birmingham, dutifully sitting in the section reserved for “coloured” people. When the white-only section of the bus became full, she refused to relinquish her seat to a white passenger who was standing, as required by municipal and state segregation laws, and as requested by the bus driver. The passenger, Rosa Parks, was also a leader in the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, and the conviction was fought all the way to the Supreme Court, with the conviction and the segregation laws surrounding it being overturned.

While Parkes was fired from her department store job as a seamstress, and received death threats for many years onward, she won world renown, as well as having streets named after her, winning medals of honor, honorary doctorates from several universities as far away as Tokyo, and a county in Washington state dedicated the front-row seats of their municipal buses in her name, shortly after her death in 2005.

Categories
crappy album covers

Crappy Album Covers #332 — Hair wearing their humans

The Continental’s (sic) album depicts a female that can’t seem to do a thing with her hair.

No information exists on this album or the artists.

Svenne and Lotta had a hit with Bang-A-Boomerang before ABBA took off with it in 1975. Apparently, Benny and Bjorn wrote it, with Svenne and Lotta entering it into a singing competition. Their hit was overshadowed by ABBA’s version, and they faded out of existence, but remained for a while as a national talent in Sweden.

The 1969 Psychedelic/Glam band known as Wild Thing list their places of origin as, depending on which way the wind blows, either Hudson, Massachusetts or Norfolk, Virginia. Their sound was typical of the more progessive sounds during that time. This is the cover of their 7″ single Old Lady, backed with Next To Me.

Categories
news clips

Local story of the year: the Chair Girl

One meme: Chair throws girl: Chairgirl!

“Balcony Becky” is how she is known to some people, except that her first name is Marcella, and the 45th-floor balcony belonging to an AirBnB listing at Maple Leaf Square is only a bit player in her video. She claims to be an exchange student from Brazil, but seems more like an escort from someplace more local.

This has given rise to several memes, and along with it criminal charges of reckless endangerment or something along those lines. Later photos appear to have her with much more plastic surgery and breast enhancement, which tells us pretty much how her counselling went.

In the old days (before 2005!), all you needed to do to get censured by future employers was to post a picture of yourself doing something immoral or stupid somewhere searchable; or a video of yourself on YouTube. To make the newspapers, radio and TV, you still had to do something truly ridiculous or heinous. Marcella has, in the age of Instagram and Twitter, overcome the meme barrier to enter the major media, thus amplifying the number of hateful messages sent to her.

Last I heard, at some point before or after Marcella’s guilty plea, her lawyer was trying to get her dental school to reverse the expulsion, but she remains expelled. I would say that the school was rightfully afraid of becoming known as “the dental school where the Chair Girl attended.” She was training to be a dental assistant, while modelling to help pay bills.

Categories
democrat politics republican

End of the year in review: A review of the reviews

It is because I subscribe to the Times that I have commented so much about them as of late. In my mind, I serve as the latter-day incarnation of LOOT magazine from the early 1990s. Lies Of Our Times was a critique of America’s newspaper of record, the New York Times. It had an unfortunate radical-sounding name. However, the critiques were scholarly, and it taught me, before I became influenced by FAIR magazine and Noam Chomsky, how to read newspapers or magazines in a way that revealed their subtext.

The end-of-year/end-of-decade reviews are not so much a way to remind us what had gone on in the past, as it is a way to show by way of a yardstick the success to which the propaganda system which is the major media, have made it possible for the Donald Trumps of the world to divide us and conquer us.

After a solid three years of anti-Trump vitriol, the New York Times now characterizes us as “divided”, “mistrustful”, and so on, in their opinion pieces. Of course, this would not be successful had it not been for Trump’s incessant tweeting, Trump’s rallies and Fox News. The Times probably blames Trump and the Republicans; Trump blames “the fake news”, of which the New York Times is one of several targets.

I know the media would say that Trump would say outrageous thing to “stay true to his base”, or to “play to his base”. It is never stated who “the base” are, exactly. Without doing much of a survey here, I would say it’s a solid guess that anyone who would benefit from his promises would be his base. Rich people obviously. But there are also the poor white people in the southern and midwestern states that the press likes to mention so often. And middle-aged white men. I think they mean bigots and people of low literacy. Yes, the people the paper of record mentions do happen to be largely working-class and have been abandoned by the Democrats for several decades now. They have become so desparate, that they now cling to a billionaire born with a silver spoon in his mouth — just the kind of person the working class would normally despise, just because he seems to rankle the Democrats, and speak of the working class in terms that raise them slightly above the level of a doormat.

As an asside, yes, the Democrats abandoned the working class. This leaves the Democrats with nothing really to stand for. The Republicans have now shown the Democrats up on this very point by showing us all that “the party of the rich” can also command support of the working class, whose needs they will promptly ignore but for advocacy at rallies and election speeches. It is hard to see for all of the fireworks, but the Republicans being against “anything Democrat”, paired with the Democrats now fighting over what their party stands for, now lays bare the idea that for the past 40 years or so the Dems have stood for nothing, but have only appeared to stand for the working class. As of late, the charade has been revealed in the Dems uneasiness with the Green New Deal and other enhancements to working class and minorities such as raising the minimum wage, championed by Ocasio-Cortez and her like. Since the mid-seventies, America has been pretty much a one-party state masquerading as a two-party state. All the Republicans are guilty of is revealing to all of us the truth about this reality. Republicans have waged an all-out war on the poor from the start. In recent years, they have tried to undermine or tear apart the Affordable Health Care Act; and have on several occasions sought to turn away refugees and immigrants, and sending children and toddlers of these immigrants to concentration camps. The border wall is the most visible example, though largely only symbolic. No one is a friend of the working class in any true sense, but both parties need their vote.

In this light, the major media’s job apparently, seems to have been to preside over assessing how successful divide and conquer has been to guarantee allegiance to parties that are really essentially alike. Expect a lot of this from the major media in the coming week or month, under the ruse of “reflecting us back to ourselves”. We know what that reflection will look like: we are divided. This is thanks to the efforts of Fox News to cheerlead the Republican party, and of CNN and the Times to cheerlead the Democrats. A discourse of basic facts counts for little these days, when we are disputing what the facts are.

Categories
media Popular Culture Rants

Tampering with Freedom of the Press

I have tried to hold off on writing about the latest kerfuffle regarding Donald Trump being cut out of the CBC televised version of the 1992 film Home Alone 2 during the time that Trump was still a private citizen, and not at all in politics. It is predictable, and right out of the Daily Stormer playbook that the Trump family would exaggerate this entirely out of proportion as a political slight against Trump.

This has now migrated from the CBC News desks to the New York Times, and what is newsworthy to me is that these big-money media organs found it newsworthy. This is man-baby syndrome at its worst. And the major media reports on the man-baby every time the man-baby coos, belches, spits up, bawls, throws a tantrum or tweets.

The thing is, we already know that Trump has a screw loose, so can we just get past that and have more journalistic efforts concentrated on normal tragedies like wars, homelessness and global warming?

Categories
christian democracy democrat jesus propaganda republican

Watching and listening to the Trump impeachment debates

Last night, I listened to the debate over the Trump impeachment vote; the 30 seconds given to each member to speak their mind forced everyone to not express anything unique or interesting. It forced concision. And among lawyers and lawmakers that may not be a bad thing, but to listen to hours of speeches last evening it was clear that all the Republicans and Democrats sounded the same, and listed out the same talking points, as if they all had “the memo” from their party brass. It was only toward the end when we heard the party brass themselves speak that some utterances that were in more detail as to the learned opinions of the leadership of the House of Representatives.

Sometimes, speaking at length is just verbal diarrhea. But that is the only time we get to hear an individual’s thought process. In 30 seconds, it is really easy for a Republican to say “there is no evidence against the President”, since that already used up a couple of those seconds. A few more of these sweeping sensatioanlist statements, and their time is already up.

Another use of the 30 second rule is that if you say something truly absurd, you don’t need to elaborate. You drop your verbal bombshell and just leave your nonsense hanging in the air. Like when one of the nameless, faceless speakers stated that Jesus was given more rights by Pontius Pilate than Trump was given by the Democrats. It had the effect of a crazy Trump tweet. There is no journalist asking the person questions, so the statement is disconnected, taken as it is. The beauty of crazy statements made to “the speaker” or of tweets made in social media, is that no one is there to question you, your grasp of reality, or ask for details. Who cares if Pontius Pilate consigned Jesus to carry his own cross, endure public scorn, and suffered 40 lashes, only to have nails driven through his feet and hands to the wooden cross at the end? What kind of numb-nut would say that Trump had it worse? It is great copy for those who don’t care about the Bible.

Would a more accurate comparison be to compare Trump’s public speaking appearance at a Michigan stadium yesterday (same day he was being impeached) to the Nuremburg rallies, and the propaganda against the Democrats as being like the Reichstag fire? Actually, it is close: the New York Times has compared it with Castro rallying his followers after the government did the same thing to him one year. The Nazi comparisons I’ve made as an example are kind of extreme too, and would only rankle die-hard Republicans. Those views don’t teach us much nor advance any discussion regarding articles of impeachment based on evidence. In fact they do the opposite, in inhibiting clarity of thought and in discouraging honest and open debate and discussion.

Categories
factoids Opinion ramblings

The shrinking family

Shrkinking families have a long history. The terminology of “the nuclear family” is long gone, but ever more present. “Nuclear families” were referred to as families consisting only of parents and children living in the same dwelling. This was in contrast to “extended families”, once called “families” in an earlier time, which consisted of children, parents, and grandparents living in the same dwelling. The now-universal expectation that adult children must leave their families and seek their own independent living has only become the norm since World War II, after we have all experienced great increases in living standards since then, and could afford to move out.

The prosperity came at a price, not measured in dollars. I think that with the shrinking family, there was also a shrinking in our connectedness as a society in general. The term “atomization” in reference to the separation of individuals from each other became a popular term, popularized by Emile Durkheim near the end of the 19th century, has now become the cornerstone of sociology. In addition to atomie, he also coined “anomie”, which is the opposite where you blend in so much with society that you lose your individuality. Both extremes can be bad for us and our mental and social health. But our close association with each other, when it is healthy, is self-affirming and life-affirming in no way that a motivational poster or book ever could be.

The main force in today’s culture are clearly the ones driving us apart. This time, not just from our families, but from each other. Atomization has been raised an order of magnitude in our culture. Along with that, we have become easier targets for society’s more totalitarian forces. The internet is one medium that separates us, and it is common these days to see a couple enter a restaurant, be shown to their seats, given their menus, order, and then promptly get on their cell phones to check their messages, remaining that way until the food arrives, and even beyond that. You start to think what the point is in dating anymore, when one or both people are not speaking to each other, opting instead to check their facebook accounts for lolcat videos instead.

OK, so it may not be lolcat videos — perhaps it is something of greater import, such as messages from your boss. Whatever it is, it can wait. I believe at that moment, no matter who or where you are, the most important thing at that moment should be chatting with your date, and being attentive to the person in front of you. This inattentiveness adds up over time in lost connections with actual human beings whom you see face-to-face, and relationships don’t strengthen, and feelings of alientation become stronger. The greatest beneficiaries of social media use are the social media companies.

I digress. But text messages from your boss that “can’t wait” is a recent phenomenon which has extended the workplace’s control over the worker to hours outside of work. This segues into another atomizing force: extended work hours, which have become commonplace in society.

This last atomizing force, in my opinion, makes it more difficult for individuals to consider families as an option, let alone marriage. The importance of career over marriage, once an individual decision not chosen by many individuals, appears to be largely an employer-driven decision and a means of worker enslavement. The cost of this was to make employment, even self-employment all-encompassing, making families less and less of an attractive option to the point where we live in an urbanized culture with a significant increase in single person dwellings, increasing with each generation. That means for most of us, the single driving force in shaping our social perceptions becomes less to do with neighbours and family and more to do with media, especially corporate media.

And the best way out of atomization are social contact, discussing your concerns and feelings with others, and in forming social groups, visiting relatives, parents, sisters and brothers. The only group that becomes stronger are the corporate structures that rely on increased atomization to keep us from forming groups and — God forbid — making demands.

It is understood immediately how capitalism pollutes the natural environment around us, and our world has been replete with examples of polluted rivers and lakes over several decades, with new issues piling up with each year. Now, it is becoming clear that capitalism also pollutes the human condition, our psyches. They drive us from our natural, social selves, to alone, lonely, and confused people who are easier to control and scare into obedience.

Categories
Canada factoids ramblings

The rising, delerious popularity of Eldred, Saskatchewan

Periodically, I do some standard Google searches, but I distinctly recall the “Eldred, Saskachewan” search string to come up fairly dry. Maybe a few applicable search results and some data-driven gazeteers here and there. There was also that 2016 video that comes up.

There was also the “Roadside Thoughts” website which appears to be a script/data-driven website with template pages and not a whole lot of special attention given to the communities they devote pages to. To their credit, while they are very thin on insightful information, at least for a time, it was something. There is another website attempting to do “Eldred Geneology“, but short on detail; an “Eldred map” with no map (not that I would expect to see one), but a applet advertising Trivago trips to Prince Albert, about 105 km away by highway.

And above, the hourly forecast for Eldred for the next 30 or so hours, provided apparently by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. It has a link to weather radar, presumably for Eldred, but it doesn’t succeed in giving any radar. But of course, The Weather Network has Eldred weather for the next 7 days, and it has radar if you just have to have that Eldred Weather Radar “fix”.

Also, Eldred is also given a footnote in Wikipedia, as a former town within the Regional Municipality of Spiritwood #496. It was mentioned because it was a town where the Big River branch of the CN Rail passed through.

All of this recent attention is not bad for a town that hasn’t existed since about 1959.